TIME Nigeria

A Multinational Task Force Must Fight Boko Haram, Says U.N. Security Council

People fleeing Boko Haram violence in the northeast region of Nigeria, cook food at Maikohi secondary school IDP camp in Yola, Adamawa State
Afolabi Sotunde—Reuters People fleeing Boko Haram violence in the northeast region of Nigeria cook food at Maikohi secondary-school camp for internally displaced persons in Yola, Adamawa State, on Jan. 13, 2015

After almost a year of meetings, the bloc releases a statement on how to deal with the Nigerian terrorist group

The U.N. Security Council is urging Central African countries to fight Boko Haram more aggressively.

In a statement released Monday, the council pushed for the deployment of a multinational task force targeting the Nigerian jihadist group.

This is the council’s first statement actively advocating for this sort of resolution, Agence France-Presse reports. It also called on Boko Haram to “immediately and unequivocally cease all hostilities and all abuses of human rights and violations.”

Boko Haram has gained notoriety for its brutal methods, like the use of children as suicide bombers. The 13-point statement condemned these tactics.

The response comes after attacks by Boko Haram on Sunday in Cameroon, where they took dozens of hostages. Cameroon, along with Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Benin, has signed up to join the force.

Prior to the meeting, advocacy group Avaaz received 725,000 signatures on a petition appealing to the U.N. Security Council to take action on Boko Haram. “Boko Haram has butchered its way into the global spotlight and finally the Security Council is reacting,” said Alice Jay, the campaign director for Avaaz.

TIME Nigeria

4 Dead, 35 Hurt in Suicide Bombing in Northeast Nigeria

Five killed in Nigeria's Potiskum suicide bombing
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Wreckage of a car is seen after a suicide bombing which killed at least five people and injured many others in Potiskum of Yobe State in Nigeria on Jan. 18, 2015

Blast comes amid heightening tensions as national polls near

Four people were killed and 35 wounded after a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives at a bus station in Potiskum, a town in northeast Nigeria, on Sunday.

Although no one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, investigators believe Jihadist group Boko Haram are the most likely culprits, reports Reuters.

“The information I have is that the car was pretending to be scouting for passengers,” Yobe state police commissioner Danladi Marcus told the news agency.

Nigeria is seeing spiraling violence ahead of general elections pitting incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan against former junta chief Muhammadu Buhari. The polls are considered the closest contest since military rule ended in 1999.

[Reuters]

TIME Cameroon

Suspected Boko Haram Militants Kidnap Around 80 in Cameroon

Gathering against Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria. January 17, 2015. Paris, France
Jean Marmeisse—Corbis People gather against the Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria on Jan. 17, 2015 in Paris.

Over half were children

Suspected fighters from the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram kidnapped around 80 people Sunday, over half of whom were children, during a cross-border attack in neighboring Cameroon, officials said.

The kidnappings were the largest in Cameroon since the terrorist group began expanding its operations to adjacent countries, including Chad, Reuters reports. Three people were also killed during the attacks.

“According to our initial information, around 30 adults, most of them herders, and 50 young girls and boys aged between 10 and 15 years were abducted,” an army officer in Cameroon told Reuters.

Cameroon government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma has confirmed the attacks, though he said the exact number of people kidnapped during the attacks is not known.

Boko Haram has made advances in recent weeks with an assault on the multinational military base of Baga in northeast Nigeria, as the group seeks to disrupt the upcoming Presidential elections. The Nigerian government estimated the death toll from the Baga massacre was 150, though local reports said the death toll was at least 10 times higher.

[Reuters]

TIME Nigeria

Why Charlie Hebdo Gets More Attention Than Boko Haram

Nigeria Boko Haram Terrorist Attack
Aminu Abubakar—AFP/Getty Images A man injured in a suicide blast is transported to the General Hospital in the northeast town of Potiskum, Nigeria on Jan, 12, 2015.

Charlotte Alter covers lifestyle, crime, and breaking news for TIME in New York City. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Americans care a lot about attacks that seem like they could happen to them

A series of attacks, both in the name of Islamist extremism, occur in the same week. Three linked attacks kill 17 in Paris, another kills at least 150 in Nigeria (but perhaps up to 2,000). Guess which one gets most of our attention?

Many are calling the Jan. 7 attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo an attack on freedom of speech, or even an assault on Western values as a whole. Yet elsewhere in the world, those same values are being threatened by other extremists who want to spread fundamentalism. I’m talking, of course, about Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist group in Nigeria that kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from their dorm last spring, murdered up to 2,000 civilians in Baga last week (although the bodies have not yet been officially counted), and over the weekend used a 10-year old girl as a suicide bomber to kill at least 16 people at a market (two other young girls wearing suicide vests killed three people in a separate attack.)

These attacks aren’t just brutal, they’re also part of a larger assault on freedom of religion and democracy, since the group targets Christians, non-Muslims, and anybody suspected of opposing their efforts to establish an African caliphate. Baga was reportedly perceived to have loyalties to the Nigerian government instead of Boko Haram, and the attack comes just weeks before Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election. Boko Haram, like many Islamist fundamentalist groups, oppose democratic elections.

MORE 5 facts that explain the threat from Nigeria’s Boko Haram

Yet after the overwhelming global show of support for France in the wake of the Paris attacks, many are asking why there wasn’t similar widespread solidarity for Nigeria where far more people were killed. The hashtag #IamBaga, a variation on #JeSuisCharlie, has recently begun circulating to call attention to the massacre in Baga, a slaughter that Amnesty International is calling the group’s “deadliest act.” A Catholic Archbishop in Nigeria has called on the world community to support Nigeria the way it supported France. But even if you consider the brief blast of global awareness during last spring’s #BringBackOurGirls campaign, these calls to action seem feeble compared to the millions of marchers and more than 40 world leaders who flooded the streets of Paris this weekend.

No major dignitaries showed up in Abuja to support the Nigerian government after the Baga attack. In the week since the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the French terror plot has been the main headline in the national edition of the New York Times every day, but the most recent Boko Haram attack hasn’t appeared once on the front page. It wasn’t on the cover of the New Yorker. Nobody wore #IamBaga buttons at the Golden Globes.

Of course, the two tragedies are incomparable, as tragedies usually are. The reports coming out of Baga are still sketchy, and there’s not yet an official death toll because Boko Haram still controls the area. The details of the Charlie Hebdo attacks were immediately available, and were accompanied by compelling video that quickly dominated every major news network. French President Francois Hollande is somewhat unpopular, but at least he responded quickly and effectively to the attack. Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has been widely criticized for his incompetence at stopping Boko Haram– Jonathan released a statement condemning the Paris attacks, but his government reportedly played down the death toll in Baga. More importantly, the attack in Paris was largely unprecedented (Charlie Hebdo was firebombed in 2011, but nobody was hurt), while the massacre in Nigeria is part of a long string of Boko Haram attacks that some are even calling a “war“: the group killed over 10,000 people last year, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, and 1.5 million have fled their homes since the insurgency started. Plus, the fact that the Charlie Hebdo attack was a dramatic ambush of journalists may have added a layer of panic to the media coverage.

“The psychological distance between us and France is smaller than the psychological difference between us and Nigeria,” explains Paul Slovic, a professor of psychology at University of Oregon and president of Decision Research, a non-profit research institute that studies decision-making. “There’s a sense of personal vulnerability [in the Paris attack] that I don’t think one gets from the Boko Haram attacks,”

MORE How we failed the lost girls kidnapped by Boko Haram

A recent Pew survey tracking American news interest in foreign terrorist attacks found that Americans were overwhelmingly more interested in attacks that happen in other Western countries or attacks on children. The 2005 train bombings in London and the 2004 killing of Russian children by Chechen rebels were the most closely watched by Americans (48% saying they’d followed each event closely), followed by the 2004 bombings in Madrid and the 2007 car bomb scare in London (34% said they followed those stories). 29% of Americans closely followed the most recent Paris attacks.

The only terrorists attacks in non-Western countries that got significant American attention were attacks on destinations that attract affluent visitors. For example, 29% said they closely followed the 2008 attack of Mumbai’s Taj Hotel. 25% followed the attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013, and 20% followed the bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia in 2002. Recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq and at a Pakistan school didn’t make the list.

“We tend to empathize more with people that we feel are more ‘like us,'” says Marco Iacoboni, a psychiatry professor at UCLA. “I think in this case, cultural, anthropological differences can play a big role in how much we empathize with others. I jokingly call this the ‘dark side’ of empathy.”

Whether or not it’s morally right, that cognitive disconnect is exactly what the terrorists are betting on. When terrorists kill villagers in non-Western countries, it feels like one of many bad things that happen to poor people in far-away places. When terrorists attack Western cities Americans might live in, hotels Americans might stay in, or nightclubs Americans might dance in, it feels like a bad thing that could happen to you.

That’s a scary thought, which is exactly why the terrorists are doing it. But maybe we should be just as concerned about terrorists in Africa as we are of terrorists in the West. Not just because the lives of those killed in Nigeria were just as valuable as the lives of those killed in France, but because as long as people are killing in the name of Islamist extremism, or any extremism, all of us are at risk.

On Wednesday, video surfaced of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau praising the attacks in Paris, saying, “We have felt joy for what befell the people of France in terms of torment, as their blood was spilled inside their country.” It’s a chilling tribute that reminds us that when terrorism flourishes anywhere, it strengthens terrorists everywhere.

MORE Bunnies, stinkbugs, and maggots: the science of empathy

Read next: Satellite Images Show Nigerian Town ‘Almost Wiped Off the Map’ After Boko Haram Attack

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Nigeria

Satellite Images Show Nigerian Town ‘Almost Wiped Off the Map’ After Boko Haram Attack

A new report says 3,700 structures destroyed in early January

A new set of before and after satellite images released by Amnesty International shows two towns in Nigeria’s restive northeast were hit hard by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in a days-long attack earlier this month.

Images provided by DigitalGlobe from Jan. 2 show Baga and Doron Baga before the assault. Ones from Jan. 7 then show, according to the international watchdog, that more than 3,700 buildings in both towns had been damaged or destroyed by fire since the pictures five days before. (Healthy vegetation is shown in red; and destroyed buildings are in yellow.)

MORE 5 Facts That Explain the Threat From Nigeria’s Boko Haram

“These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days,” said Daniel Eyre, an Amnesty researcher on Nigeria. “Of all Boko Haram assaults analyzed by Amnesty International, this is the largest and most destructive yet.”

The death toll remains unclear, hovering between 150 and up to 2,000. An uptick in attacks by Boko Haram has cast a shadow over the country’s elections planned for next month.

Read next: Back and Forth in Central African Republic’s Unholy War

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Terrorism

5 Facts That Explain the Threat From Nigeria’s Boko Haram

A member of Boko Haram seen in a suburb of Kano, Nigeria, in 2012.
Samuel James—The New York Times/Redux A member of Boko Haram seen in a suburb of Kano, Nigeria, in 2012

How an election, an energy crisis and Boko Haram’s willingness to kill more people than Ebola puts Nigeria's challenges in context

As the world responded to the Charlie Hebdo attack with a 3.7 million person march and the most tweeted hashtag in history, a surge in insurgent savagery in northeast Nigeria drew much less international attention — but was far bloodier. “Je Suis Charlie” has been the theme of the week, but we could just as easily say “Je Suis Nigeria.”

Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group, wants to establish a caliphate of its own, and a weak Nigerian government is struggling to respond. Here are five facts that put the group’s atrocities in context — and show why we’re likely to see more violence ahead of Nigeria’s Feb. 14 elections.

1. Shocking numbers in the news
On Jan. 3, Boko Haram began an assault on the town of Baga in Nigeria’s restive northeast. While the Nigerian government said 150 died in the attack, other estimates of the death toll ranged from hundreds to some 2,000 people. By some reports, 30,000 people have been displaced. On Saturday, a suicide bomb attached to a 10-year-old girl killed at least 16 people. Boko Haram also attacked a military base in neighboring Cameroon.

(The Atlantic, CNN, al-Jazeera, Foreign Policy)

2. Approval and elections
On the back of his successful handling of the Ebola crisis, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s approval ratings vaulted to an all-time high 74% in September. By December, this number had fallen to 55%, and in the northeast, Boko Haram’s stronghold, his approval fell 23 points that month.

Can the February presidential election even be held in Nigeria’s three northeastern states? Boko Haram wants to force the country’s electoral commission to cancel or indefinitely postpone the vote there. We’ll likely see at least some voting there, though only under heavy security, making it easier for losers to challenge the integrity of the results. In 2011, post-election violence in Nigeria killed 800 people.

(Premium Times, Human Rights Watch)

3. Boko Haram vs. Ebola
The West African Ebola outbreak has killed roughly 8,400 people so far. That’s by far the biggest Ebola outbreak ever, yet the Council on Foreign Relations has compiled data that links 10,340 violent deaths between November 2013 and November 2014 to Boko Haram–related violence. The conflict has displaced more than 1.5 million people, and with more than 20,000 square miles under its control, Boko Haram–held territory is larger than Switzerland.

(Council on Foreign Relations via NBC News, Ebola death-toll estimates via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BBC, Washington Post, Telegraph, the New Yorker)

4. The government’s energy headache
The major problems in Nigeria’s energy sector makes a robust and costly response to Boko Haram that much more difficult. A steep fall in oil prices — down more than 50% since June — is bad news for a country that relies on crude for 95% of export revenue and 75% of government revenue. Nigeria has also severe electricity generation concerns. Though Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, as of 2012, the country’s per capita electricity consumption was just 7% of Brazil’s and 3% of South Africa’s. Half of Nigeria’s 170 million people have no access to electricity whatsoever.

(The Economist, the Guardian, the U.N. Africa Renewal, Energy Information Administration)

5. A blind eye
President Jonathan has an election to win, and his government has been accused of underestimating deaths attributable to Boko Haram to deflect political criticism. Less than 24 hours after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, President Jonathan publicly declared it a “dastardly terrorist attack.” Yet nine days after the violence in Baga began, Jonathan has not publicly acknowledged that the attacks had even happened, though a spokesman for Nigeria’s Defense Ministry issued a statement questioning the “exaggerated” death-toll estimates, dismissing them as “speculation and conjecture.”

(BBC, the Atlantic, transcript of Jan. 8 campaign rally via Sahara Reporters, CNN, Foreign Policy)

Read next: Detained Washington Post Journalist Indicted in Iran

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 14

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Boko Haram’s lethality is surging. The global public must take note and demand action from world leaders.

By Sophie Kleeman in Mic

2. Simple stop-and-go labels could train people to eat healthier.

By Tove Danovich in Civil Eats

3. Massive indoor farms use vastly less power and water than outdoor fields and could help address global food insecurity.

By Gloria Dickie in National Geographic

4. Military exoskeletons are becoming a reality, just not necessarily for combat.

By Patrick Tucker in Defense One

5. As U.S. retail transforms, urgent-care clinics are taking over mall real estate to meet growing demand.

By Doni Bloomfield in Bloomberg Businessweek

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Jan. 14, 2015

A compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Robin Hammond‘s work on sandmining in Lagos, Nigeria, an urban hub that is Africa’s most populous metropolitan area. Most of the sand for the concrete used in construction comes from the bottom of the Lagos Lagoon. The photographs follow a group of sand diggers, who work like miners, except underwater. They navigate the lagoon on small boats, their sails constructed of rice sacks, and dig by hand before bringing their haul back ashore. Hammond’s striking pictures offer us a glimpse into the lives of those who play a crucial role in Lagos’ booming growth.

Robin Hammond: Life in Lagos: Building the City, One Bucket at a Time (National Geographic PROOF)

Andrew Testa: An Ancient Pastime With a Modern Twist (The New York Times) Fascinating series on camel racing with robots on their humps.

Amos Chapple: The Coldest Towns on Earth (The Wired Raw File) Shivering pictures from Russia’s Oymyakon and Yakutsk.

Matt Black: Almonds Suck California Dry (Mother Jones) These photographs capture California’s nut boom—in the midst of an epic drought.

Rian Dundon: A Homecoming in Oakland (TIME LightBox) The photographer documents his native California after having spent years away.

TIME Cameroon

Cameroon Says It Has Killed 143 Boko Haram Militants

Screengrab taken on Oct. 2, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, shows group's leader Abubakar Shekau.
AFP/Getty Images Screengrab taken on Oct. 2, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, shows group's leader Abubakar Shekau.

Islamist extremists currently on the rampage in northeast Nigeria

The government of Cameroon says its military killed 143 Boko Haram extremists in a standoff near the country’s border with Nigeria. The Islamic extremist group has been terrorizing Nigeria for the past five years and has gained new momentum leading up to the country’s scheduled presidential election.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Cameroonian government said military engaged in a five-hour fight with extremists that left at least one corporal dead and four soldiers wounded, along with the dozens of Boko Haram militants who were killed, according to the Associated Press.

Boko Haram, the group responsible for kidnapping hundreds of school girls last year, has carried out a slew of violent attacks in recent weeks. Last week, the group massacred the town of Baga in Nigeria—officials estimate the death toll is 150, but it has been reported to be as high as 2,000.

Read next: Boko Haram Militants Are Back on the Attack in Nigeria as a Presidential Election Looms

[AP]

TIME Nigeria

Nigerian Government Puts Death Toll in Boko Haram Massacre at 150

According to local reports, however, the death toll is more than 10 times that number

The Nigerian government on Monday put the death toll from last week’s massacre at Baga by Boko Haram at 150, less than 10% of the number of deaths originally reported in the horrific attack.

The West African country’s defense ministry said this figure included “many of the terrorists” from the militant group, the BBC says.

However, the Nigerian authorities have regularly been accused in the past of lessening the threat of Boko Haram by giving out low estimates of casualties.

The government figure greatly conflicts with initial reports of Friday’s attack on the town of Baga near the Nigeria-Chad border, with Amnesty International, and several news outlets, reporting that around 2,000 people were slaughtered by the militant group.

“The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous,” Muhammad Abu Gava, a spokesman for a civilian anti-terror defense group, told the Associated Press, adding that his fighters gave up trying to count the bodies.

AFP meanwhile reported that Boko Haram insurgents attacked a military base in neighboring Cameroon on Monday.

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